Everybody leads with the Senate confirmation of now Chief Justice John Roberts. The final vote was 78-22, with half of Democrats joining all Republicans to confirm. He was sworn in soon after. As the New York Timesputs it, Roberts is now”the youngest chief justice since John Marshall took the oath 204 years ago.”
The papers all mention increasing chatter on President Bush’s next pick, with the Wall Street Journal citing “indications” that the president is looking for a “staunch conservative who is relatively young” and therefore wouldn’t have a big paper trail for Democrats to glom onto.
The NYT and Washington Postoff-lead, and Los Angeles Times fronts, NYT reporter Judith Miller’s release from jail after she agreed to spill the beans on her chat with the vice president’s deputy chief of a staff, Scooter Libby. Miller served about 12 weeks in jail and is scheduled to testify today.
Back when the investigation of the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame was launched, Libby signed a waiver allowing all reporters to spill about their conversations with him. Miller along with other reporters considered that waiver to be bogus. The NYT’s publisher said Miller agreed to testify only after she “received a direct and uncoerced waiver.”
Libby’s lawyers said they told Miller’s people a year ago that the old waiver meant she was free to talk. Miller wanted something more personal, so, according to the NYT, “She authorized her lawyers to seek further clarification from Mr. Libby’s representatives in late August.” [Emphasis added.] As the LAT points out, Libby has given just that kind of personal waiver to other reporters. That raises a question: Why didn’t Miller try to get a personal waiver until late August? The NYT’s Adam Liptak said on NPR over the summer—Aug. 2—that, “Judy and her lawyers have declined to answer the question of whether they have done anything at all to contact the source and try to obtain a satisfactory waiver.”
The prosecutor in the CIA leak case has said Miller was the last person who needed to spill. So, indictments, or simply a closed investigation, could be coming soon.
The LAT and NYT front a triple bombing in the mostly Shiite city of Balad, just above Baghdad. About 80 people were killed. One explosion hit an outdoor market, and the NYT says another bomb blew up as emergency workers arrived. Five American soldiers were also killed by a roadside bomb in Ramadi.
The LAT has horrific details on the Balad bombings: “Firemen tried unsuccessfully to extinguish the flames engulfing a minibus packed with children. The firefighters eventually ran out of water as they battled several blazes.” Another bombing this morning in Hilla killed seven Iraqis.
The LAT and WP both give a bit of Page One play to top generals who headed up to Capitol Hill and acknowledged that the number of Iraqi battalions capable of operating independently dropped from three to one. The Journal adds that the commanders also said Iraq’s police and army are “riddled with insurgent sympathizers.” Oh, and the generals said Iraqi forces are getting better.
The NYT has a slightly different takeaway from the generals’ chat. It inexplicably skips the state of the Iraqi army and instead offers: “OFFICIALS FEAR CHAOS IF IRAQIS VOTE DOWN THE CONSTITUTION.” Which is true enough; what it misses, and the story doesn’t mention, is that many independent analysts—including Slate’s Fred Kaplan—”fear chaos” if the constitution is approved.
A week after a similar report in the WP, the NYT waddles in with, “HOUSING FOR STORM’S EVACUEES LAGGING FAR BEHIND U.S. GOALS.” Which isn’t a problem, except that buried under that headline is a bit of good news and what should be the lead: “[U]nder an alternative FEMA program to give victims cash to find their own housing, 332,000 households have been approved in just a week.” Just last week, the Postsaid the administration was undecided about such a program.
A front-page LAT piece says an Italian court has issued an arrest warrant for another American—a U.S. Embassy official—involved in the “rendering” of an al-Qaida suspect who was snatched off the street and sent to Egypt. The offical is apparently a female CIA agent, operating undercover. But not so deep:
Efforts to speak to the woman at her posting in Latin America were not successful. In a brief conversation, a person answering the phone initially identified herself as the woman; when told she was speaking to a reporter, however, she immediately said she had no idea who the woman was and refused to respond further.